An industry-academia collaboration that is in Spain has been able to make drinking straws, which are based on bioplastic produced by the bacteria which are expected to hit the market in next few days. This collaboration does include companies such as Ocenic Resins and academic institutions such as Jaume I University as well as Institute of Agrochemistry and Food technology, which are all based in Spain. Straws are usually made from plastic, which is known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), that is produced by a bacteria that includes Bacillus Megaterium when they get to be stressed.
Bioplastics that are based on the PHA are a more sustainable alternative to the conventional plastics for producing a single-use food packaging as PHA can easily be fermented from the microorganisms without the use of petrochemicals. Also, PHA is biodegradable, and the waste PHA can easily be fed back to bacteria to be able to recycle it. This can be able to offer a way to be able to reduce the plastic pollution of the marine eco-systems. The leading researcher, Luis Cabedo Mas, said that a reference, the straws complete biodegradation in less than 3 months under the controlled composting conditions.
Ocenic Resins is currently making the drinking straws to commercialize them. Personnel from the Ocenic Resins said that there are several supermarkets which are interested. The representative said that they would be commercially available in 2 months. On their own, PHA polymers do have poor thermal stability, hence there is a need to use additives that includes starch to be able to make them usable. To be able to overcome this problem, partners take PHA from the external suppliers as well as mix it with the undisclosed additives, which means that the drinking straws can be able to resist hot liquids than the paper straws can.
Such latest collaboration has been part of the growing movement of the companies developing the bioplastic products, For instance, Dutch company by the name Avantium recently was able to open a demo plant to be able to produce the bioplastics for use in drinks bottles as well as textiles. French biotech Carbios recently was able to raise money towards opening its demo plant hence providing recyclable plastic bottles. Also, Scottish company CuanTec is making a fermentation method for making bioplastics from discarded shells of the seafood. Although the bioplastics including PHA, are more costly than conventional plastics, the European markets that include food packaging and the hygiene product sectors might welcome them.